Last Tuesday, the Republican minority leaders of the state House and Senate came together to express their opposition to the extension of the governor’s emergency powers to April 20, and included a “framework” for how they’d like the governor and legislature to act in the future. It was mostly ignored, which is fine, but one of their demands is set to be enacted soon: a lift on the attendance cap for religious services.
Is this a good idea? Oh, probably not. It seems like whenever we lift restrictions, numbskulls find a way to ruin things. And while some COVID-19 indicators are trending downward, we’re still in the midst of a major wave of infections.
So why? The governor said it was partly because of potential legal challenges in other states, and increased vaccination numbers among older adults. It’s pretty clear, though, that Republicans hate that all of this is the call of a single man, and that there is nothing they can do to change it.
The way this works is that a committee of legislative leaders, in this case composed of six Democrats and four Republicans, has the ability to extend the governor’s emergency powers by no more than six months. The committee can vote to nullify all of his executive orders. That’s really it. In order for this situation to change, the legislature would have to rewrite the statutes concerning emergency powers, and Democrats don’t seem at all interested in that.
Republicans, however, are. Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, has proposed a bill that would cut the six-month time limit to a single month, allow for nullifying individual executive orders, and require equal representation on the committee for the minority party. That, of course, would allow the Republicans to hold the committee hostage, ensuring it would deadlock unless they got what they wanted. That seems like a very bad way to run things during an emergency, and a way to infuse partisan politics into a situation that needs the opposite.
Still, even during a long emergency like this pandemic, politics will continue. It’s tough to be in the opposition during an emergency, as people tend to initially rally around the flag and do what the government says. There are exceptions, of course (see Trump, Donald J.), but here in Connecticut the public largely approves of the governor’s actions. So Republicans are left trying to thread the needle between exerting their independence and looking like clueless hacks during a crisis.
Since they’re Connecticut Republicans, they are not good at this. They try to make themselves seem like Very Reasonable People who deserve a seat at the table with frameworks like the one they released last week, but then they undercut themselves with dumb partisan language like “Democrat leaders” instead of “Democratic leaders.” That seems like a small thing, and it is, but it’s also a big, bright red flag of hackery.
See, about 30 years ago the Newt Gingrich band of Republicans started saying “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party,” and they do it whenever they want to casually disrespect their opposition. When someone tells you their name, you call them by it. You don’t change it or shorten it, because that’s rude and ignorant. It would be like Nancy Pelosi saying “Rethuglican” or some other forum troll corruption of “Republican” every time she talked about the opposing party.
It’s handy, though, because whenever Republicans use that language Democrats instantly know they can safely ignore it, because these Republicans have no interest in compromise, working together, or trying to be serious about governing. They’re just throwing crap at the wall to see what sticks.
As for the governor, his political fortunes will rise and fall based almost exclusively on how the public feels he’s handling the pandemic. So far his calmness, competence, and reliance on scientific evidence and expertise has driven his formerly dismal approval ratings up. If you’d asked anyone in February 2020 if Ned Lamont had any chance at reelection, they’d have laughed you out of the room. Now, though, with an approval rating above 50% and high marks on leading the state through the pandemic, he’s in surprisingly good position for 2022.
But if things do start going badly, if the vaccine rollout is botched or the economy crashes harder than expected, he could be in trouble again. The fate of President Trump underscores how important leadership over the long term in a crisis is to voters.
As for Democratic legislators, they don’t have to do a single thing. And isn’t that the best of all possible worlds?
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.